I Used Three Smart Speakers at the Same Time. Here’s What Happened.

“OK, Google. Good morning.”

My name is Amanda, and these are the words I use to start my day.

And no later do I utter them, it seems, than a smart home speaker responds with, “Good morning, Amanda,” followed by a brief weather report, and tech news briefings from a handful of sources.

For many consumers, there isn’t anything about this routine that sounds terribly out of the ordinary. In my workplace alone, many of us kick off the day by fumbling for coffee and mumbling a verbal command for news that, somehow, our respective smart home speakers of choice understand.

But here’s the thing: Neither morning doesn’t end there. Throughout the day, I use both Google Home and Amazon Echo simultaneously — each for different tasks, often in different rooms. 

And now, I’ve added an Apple HomePod to the mix.

I know what you’re thinking — what could one woman ever possibly do with more than one — let alone three — smart home speakers?

Think of it this way: I tried using all three at once, so you wouldn’t have to. 

Here’s how that played out.

What Happens When You Use Three Smart Speakers at the Same Time?

It Began With Two

Since the HomePod only became available last week, up until then, I was only using two smart speakers: the Amazon Echo (which I’ll refer to throughout this post as Alexa, the name of its built-in digital personal assistant) and the Google Home.

A lot has changed since I wrote last year about the distinctions between Alexa and Google Home. Both devices have evolved with fresh capabilities and features, creating new differentiating factors.

One of the biggest improvements, when it comes to my day-to-day, is the number of Alexa’s skills versus those available through Google Home. Alexa’s catalog of skills, in fact, has grown into an app store of sorts, with 15,000 available for users to enable.

My personal favorite is My Boxing Coach, which I use at least twice a week. But I don’t use it without the help of my Google Home — and here’s why:

Music credit: “5 out of 6” by Dessa

Allow me to make one thing clear: Tasking multiple smart speakers with different functionalities to create a full home workout experience is what I’d call a “first world problem,” to be sure. 

But, when I shared the experience with my colleague, HubSpot Director of Web Development Dmitry Shamis (whose name you might recognize from our previous coverage of the two devices), he told me, “You shouldn’t have to.”

When Shamis and I were discussing this same topic a year ago, he argued you don’t need both devices, because they share enough of the same capabilities to, say, get through an average day. But now, we’ve both changed our tune.

And while “need” is quite relative when it concerns any tech gadget, it’s very easy to use both speakers at once, for different things — especially when only one of them features something like a workout app. (Google Home, for its part, only lists nearby gyms when I prompt it for a good workout.)

Enter: The Ecosystem

My recent conversations with Shamis got me thinking about the idea of an ecosystem, and the way a series of branded products are often built to work only with each other. That was an issue at this year’s CES, where several Samsung and LG products were designed this way — under a branded ecosystem. 

Between Alexa and Google Home, the latter seems to have a better foundation resembling an ecosystem. Google has its own phone, a suite of communication applications, calendar, and a music service. But its smart speaker is still designed to integrate with services from other brands, like Spotify. 

Alexa is a bit further behind when it comes to an ecosystem. Though the Echo does have features like its own music service, and it allows users to make Amazon purchases through the speaker, the strategy of its parent company focuses more on moving into and taking the lead in major industries (think: online retail, grocery shopping, and more recently, healthcare and shipping).

So, why do you have to use both to have background music for your workout? It’s not like Google is a stranger to an app store. After all, it has its own catalog of Android applications on Google Play. Why leave that part out — as well as the ability to combine skills simultaneously? 

And Then Came the HomePod

When it comes to a branded ecosystem, it’s easy to think of Apple. And while it was a bit late to the smart speaker party, we can’t deny that it was an early market leader in so many of the other things behind these devices: smart mobile devices, a digital personal assistant, voice search capabilities, and a portfolio of products that all look, feel, and sound alike.

Adding a smart speaker to the portfolio not only made sense, but almost seemed like a latent move for Apple.

“Apple is kind of amazing at turning all its products into an ecosystem,” says Kevin Raheja, HubSpot’s Director of Strategic Partnerships. “A really sticky ecosystem.”

It’s a point that became particularly relevant when I began using my own HomePod, and learned that if I want to play music on it, I have to do so through Apple Music — no Spotify, no Pandora, no integration with any other streaming service:

What gives — and what is Apple’s end game with this kind of restriction?

Is Apple that confident in its base of brand loyalists that it can successfully and fully eliminate all other music services from its smart home device especially when one of its top selling points is its superior sound quality?

In a word, Raheja told me: “Yes.”

To underscore that answer, he reminded me that Apple Music already has more user accounts than Spotify’s domestic user base, allowing it an early advantage as it enters the smart speaker market. It’s also important to consider the likelihood that a user would purchase a HomePod because she already uses other Apple devices and services, like an iPhone or MacBook — and is equally as likely to have an Apple Music subscription upon purchase.

But the restriction isn’t limited to, say, personal playlists. The HomePod also has extremely limited availability when it comes to general queries, like this one:

Compare that to the abilities of Alexa and Google Home, which, on some level, understand what kind of music you’re looking for — and can prompt either its own respective music catalog or Spotify’s to play a radio station or playlist to match.

“Apple’s music marketplace and ecosystem are an extension of that sticky platform I mentioned earlier,” Raheja explains. “It already has enough Apple Music users that Apple doesn’t have to bet on being platform-agnostic, like Amazon and Google do.”

The keyword here is “platform”: the idea that Apple is, at once, its own ecosystem, operating system, and brand.

And that, says HubSpot Marketing Fellow Sam Mallikarjunan, could indicate “a war of platform attrition.”

“Everyone wants to be the platform, not be featured on the platform,” he explains. “By adding third-party services, Apple would add value for the subset of users who like both Apple and Spotify, for example, as well as gain some small amount of additional information about their tastes.”

But there’s a catch to obtaining that data. “By allowing Spotify or Pandora, Apple would also be feeding those services additional revenues and exposing its existing base to alternative options,” Mallikarjunan elaborates. “There’s not a ton of upside there for Apple, who would probably like to see a world in which there were no Pandora or Spotify.”

If that were the case, he points out, both Amazon and Google’s native music services would be in direct competition with Apple Music — creating the platform war he previously alluded to.

But This Isn’t Only About Music

The HomePod, overall, is a bit of a general disappointment when compared to the basic functions of Alexa and Google Home — and that’s coming from someone who uses both a MacBook and an iPhone.

Plus, it’s recently come to light that the product might be hazardous, reportedly leaking an acidic substance onto and damaging wood surfaces. See below:

Image credit: Jon Chase, Wirecutter

Oh, and few other things: The HomePod can’t make phone calls. It can’t integrate with my calendar. It can’t send messages. And in a recent accuracy test conducted by Loup Ventures, it only answered 52% of queries correctly, compared to Google’s 81% and Alexa’s 64%.

Keep in mind, Siri can do many of these things on the iPhone. So why take away those functionalities on its giant, borderline cumbersome smart speaker version?

To that, Raheja points to Apple’s tardiness in entering the smart speaker market.

“It’s possible that Apple just wanted to get to market,” he says. “Integrating Siri can be done, but not as quickly as pushing a good consumer speaker, quickly.”

If that’s the case, what’s the fate of the HomePod? Will even the most brand-loyal Apple users be satisfied enough with superior sound quality (the only apparent advantage) that they’ll be able to ignore — or at least tolerate — these seemingly limited capabilities?

“Homepod is a good fit for Apple users, but not great, unless you’re wholly committed to the Apple ecosystem,” says Raheja. “It has Siri, but those abilities are limited. Something like Alexa is much more flexible.”

Who does Raheja think will win the platform war?

“The reason Amazon will win this space, in my opinion,” he says, “is that it also lets you buy things. And very soon, that could be a standard channel for everyday transactions.”

I’m Not the Only One — I Swear

I’ll admit that filling my home with not one, not two, but three smart speakers is what the kids might call “extra”: an unnecessary amount of both clutter and connectivity in a place that’s supposed to be an abode and retreat from my day-to-day tech life.

But I was delighted to learn I’m not the only one who uses multiple devices of this kind under the same roof. When I found out that Marketing Blog Section Editor Karla Cook also has both an Echo and a Google Home, I asked if she uses both for different things.

“Oh, I definitely do,” she told me.

“Google Home is for questions,” she said, with a nod to Google’s origins as a search engine. “Alexa is strictly a kitchen tool.”

And while the Google Home can also be used for cooking purposes like finding recipes, translating measurements, or reading instructions, it does draw attention to the fact that Alexa lacks the general information-finding abilities of its Google and Apple counterparts. Remember that accuracy test from earlier? While both outperform Siri’s information-finding ability, Google Home outperformed Alexa in correct answers by 17%.

Ultimately, what that teaches me is that even with a branded ecosystem, smart speakers are still highly fragmented.

In a way, one might compare them to the different messaging platforms available from Apple (iMessage) and Android devices. Sure, they can work together to some degree and allow users of both products to communicate. But without a cellular connection, for example, they can’t send and receive messages to or from one another.

None of the devices, when used alone, are bad. They all have quite a bit to offer, depending on the preferences of their respective users.

I do look forward to the day, however, when these devices work as true ecosystems — and can maintain a degree of brand loyalty while also allowing individual users to fully personalize their experiences with them. 

But, I will end our little roundup with a sentiment of gratitude. The fact that we are living in a time that — for me, at least — our parents could once only imagine by way of science fiction novels and films, is truly magnificent. We are lucky to witness this technology unfold.

I believe there’s a quote from the Rolling Stones that applies well here: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes, you get what you need.” 

Featured image credit: “Google Home tech” by NDB Photos, used under CC BY / Cropped from original

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Your Google Rank Doesn’t Matter Anymore

For a long time, keyword rankings were a staple part of any SEO campaign. In a lot of cases they were a primary metric used to judge performance.

Go back five or six years and we had so much more information on the keywords that users were searching for to reach our web content. All of this information was available transparently within Google Analytics, and you could get relatively accurate search volume estimates from within Google’s Keyword Tool.

The first major update that changed this was Google move to encrypted search and the dreaded appearance of “not provided” within Google Analytics.

This created a ripple effect across many SEO software providers that made a lot of their tools less effective — or at least tougher — to measure the impact coming from organic search on a granular level.

Next up, and more recently, was Google’s decision to move search volume estimate within their Keyword Planner tool to show estimates in broad ranges. Instead of learning that a keyword was being searched for 1,400 times each month, we’re told that it’s searched between 1k-10k times per month. This isn’t overly helpful.

These changes have forced marketers to adapt their search strategy to focus less on individual keywords and shift to a topic-centric content strategy, especially for content sitting at the top of the funnel.

Keyword Rankings are Inaccurate

One of the major criticisms of keyword ranking data is the fact that it is largely inaccurate. Many industry leaders and even software providers of rank tracking data have admitted that this is the case.

The reasons behind this can be broken down into three broad buckets:

  1. Personalization.
  2. Device.
  3. Location.

Personalization

Around the time of the launch of Google+, the SEO industry was talking a lot about personalization within search. Even after the death of Google+, personalization has remained a big consideration.

Bonus points if you remember Authorship snippets (circa 2012).

Ultimately, Google will deliver results that are personalized to a user based on their search history. This means that if I were to search for a query like “electric cars” and I’d previously been browsing the Tesla website, it’s a possibility that Google would tailor the rankings of the search results to show Tesla near the top.

This wouldn’t be the case for someone that hasn’t previously visited Tesla’s website, which makes it very tough to determine which website actually ranks #1 (because it can be different from one person to the next).

Device and Location

Whilst personalization plays a part in the ambiguity of keyword rankings, it’s nothing compared to the role of implicit query factors like device and location.

One of Google major advancements in search over the past five years has been its ability to take into account aspects of a search query that aren’t explicitly stated. To make sense of what I’ve just said, let’s take a query like, “Boston restaurants”.

Go back to 2010 and a search for “Boston restaurants” would yield a list of relatively generic websites that either talk about Boston restaurants or maybe are a restaurant.

Fast-forward to 2018 and a simple search for “Boston restaurants” will arm Google with a whole lot more information than before. They’re able to see which device you’ve searched from, where you’re located whilst you’re searching, even if you’re currently on the move.

Let’s say that you searched on an iPhone and you’re walking around in the center of Boston at 11:30 am. Here’s what this query would actually look like to Google:

“Which restaurants are currently open for lunch within walking distance of my current location in the center of Boston, MA?”

They’ve gathered all of this information without the individual even having to type it. As a result, they’re able to completely tailor the search results to this individual searchers’ current situation.

So … to answer the question of who ranks #1 for “Boston restaurants” becomes an even more challenging task.

Keyword Rankings are Directional at Best

Strong keyword rankings don’t always equate to high volumes of organic traffic, let alone improvements in revenue. As I mentioned at the beginning, we’ve lost a lot of visibility on search volume metrics, which makes it very difficult to accurately estimate the amount of traffic you can gain from an individual keyword. Factor in the changing appearance of the search engine results page (e.g. the widespread increase in featured snippets) and it becomes an even more daunting task.

If keyword rankings are your North Star, you may be traveling in the completely wrong direction.

When all you’re obsessing over is where each page is tracking against a ranking goal, you’ll likely be misses a ton of other value that your content is bringing in. For example, what if you’ve built out some content with the primary goal of driving backlinks or social traffic, but it isn’t necessarily designed to rank for much itself (e.g. a research report)? Using keyword rankings as a determining factor of success could evaluate content in a completely inaccurate way.

Measuring Performance at the Topic Cluster Level

To combat a lot of the issues I raised above, we shifted the way that we measured content at HubSpot. For the past couple of years we’ve taken a step back from analyzing the performance of content on a page-by-page level and looked at the performance of content at the topic cluster level.

Organic search traffic and conversions are our primary search goals, so when we group our content into clusters to try and gain visibility for any searches related to a given topic, we look at the collective performance of these groups of webpages vs just the performance of individual pages.

This model of analysis helps us account for the varying goals of each individual piece of content. Also, running this analysis at scale tells us which topics tend to drive more traffic growth compared to others, and which topics tend to convert traffic at a higher rate.

This information tends to provide much clearer insights for the team as to what they should focus on next without obsessing over individual keyword rankings.

Is There Still a Place for Keyword Rankings?

Despite everything I’ve said above, I’m not actually saying that keyword rankings are dead (I can already see the tweets ready to be fired at me!). Keyword data can be useful for digging into any SEO problems that happen to your site, and also to look into the intent behind certain types of searches.

That said, the new version of Google Search Console that has just recently been rolled out should give you pretty much everything you need here.

More than anything, as a marketer you need to be aware that the data that you’re looking at related to keywords is not 100% accurate. As a result, this should never be your primary performance metric.

How to Lead Projects Even When You’re Not the Boss

This past summer I managed the largest acquisition campaign in my company’s history. I work at HubSpot, a marketing software company that popularized lead-gen campaigns and the whole idea of “inbound marketing,” so this is no small feat (we’ve run massive campaigns over the years).

The campaign, Four Days of Facebook, drove 10x the number of average leads of a typical acquisition campaign and 6x the lifetime value of projected customers.

But I didn’t do it alone. This campaign involved 11 teams and 33 people who directly contributed to the work.

Cross-functional campaigns like this can be big, complicated, and challenging which is why they so often take a boss or recognized leader to make them happen. So I wanted to share my experience as a “non-boss.” I hope it encourages other individual contributors out there to get their co-workers in other departments excited about working on high-impact, cross-functional projects.

Pre-Planning: Create Alignment

You won’t have all the answers on day one, but make sure every conversation you’re having at this stage focuses on one thing: impact. You’ll be asking a lot of people to work hard on something outside of their normal day-to-day, make it clear that your asks will translate into business results.

  • Meet with senior leaders of each team before you ask for their employees commitment on helping. Again, make it clear that you won’t be wasting anyone’s time, you’re out to generate big results.
  • Have a kickoff meeting with the team who will be responsible for delivering the work. At a high-level, you want to let everyone know that you have senior leadership buy-in and the project will be worth their time. On a more tactical level, you’ll also want to get people up-to-speed on the tools you’ll be using to manage the project.
  • Go the extra mile to develop a team culture for your team. You know how developers name their projects crazy-sounding names? It’s surprisingly effective! Give your temporary team a name that makes people feel like they’re a part of something, set up an email alias, and create a Slack channel. Get people excited!

Throughout the pre-planning stage, keep your vision front and center. For Four Days of Facebook we were partnering with Facebook, a fact I repeated constantly.

If people are excited and engaged with your vision, they’ll put up with the inevitable bumps as you achieve lift-off.

During: Maintain Momentum

The Progress Principle is the idea that humans love the satisfaction of wins, even if they’re small. It’s your best friend as you seek to keep multiple teams and dozens of people aligned and moving in the right direction–constantly show (and celebrate) forward progress.

  • Display it: I put together a registration goal waterfall chart that was updated everyday to show progress. It’s motivating to close-in on and cross that goal line.
  • Never shut up about it: I linked to information about this campaign in my email signature, Slack rooms, wherever I had the attention of my co-workers. And that information was short, sweet, and up-to-date.
  • Be a good partner: You’re not technically the manager of the people on a cross-functional team, but you should implement some management best practices: give people autonomy, figure out how they like to work and what kind of support they need from you.
  • Ask for feedback: I asked questions constantly– Is this system or process working for you? Can I set up these reports in an easier way? At one point during this campaign I asked the senior manager of a few folks working on the project if she had thoughts on how I could run it better, she told me she would love to see weekly updates sent to her and other senior managers. I was avoiding this as I didn’t want to clutter inboxes, but it ended up being one of my best tools for building internal momentum around the campaign.

Don’t overlook the fundamentals of good project management. A framework like DARCI makes roles & responsibilities super easy so you the project lead can just say, “This meeting is for people who are Responsible and Accountable only, we’ll be covering deadlines for next week”, or “This meeting is for people that need to be Informed, it’ll be a milestone check-in.”

Find a project management framework, and stick to it.

Wrapping Up: Close-The-Loop

I run four to five acquisition campaigns at HubSpot every quarter and running a campaign of this size and impact was a complete rush and I can’t wait to do it again. But before jumping into the next big project, it’s important to do a clean wrap-up, I want people to be excited to work with me and my team again in the future.

  • Say thank you: Do it publicly via a company announcement or email, and privately. I wrote handwritten notes to every person who contributed to this campaign.
  • Share results soon: Share the quantitative results, but don’t miss Twitter comments from attendees, feedback from partners, or the accolades of your co-workers. This is your chance to make it clear that you promised impact and delivered it.
  • Look for improvement opportunities: Because no matter how successful your campaign was, there are opportunities to do better. Were any deadlines missed? Why? Did any team members not work well together? Can this be addressed?

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of executing one marketing campaign after the next, and it’s scary to think about leading a big cross-functional project that could potentially fail publicly.

But so often the answer to higher impact is better collaboration. Learning how to lead across teams 10x’ed the impact I was having at my company, I hope it does the same for you.

Reading Between the Lines: A 3-Step Guide to Reviewing Web Page Content

Posted by Jackie.Francis

In SEO, reviewing content is an unavoidable yet extremely important task. As the driving factor that brings people to a page, best practice dictates that we do what we can to ensure that the work we’ve invested hours and resources into creating remains impactful and relevant over time. This requires occasionally going back and re-evaluating our content to identify areas that can be improved.

That being said, if you’ve ever done a content review, you know how surprisingly challenging this is. A large variety of formats and topics alongside the challenge of defining “good” content makes it hard to pick out the core elements that matter. Without these universal focus areas, you may end up neglecting an element (e.g. tone of voice) in one instance but paying special attention to that same element in another.

Luckily there are certain characteristics — like good spelling, appealing layouts, and relevant keywords — that are universally associated with what we would consider “good” content. In this three-step guide, I’ll show you how to use these characteristics (or elements, as I like to call them) to define your target audience, measure the performance of your content using a scorecard, and assess your changes for quality assurance as part of a review process that can be applied to nearly all types of content across any industry.


Step 1: Know your audience

Arguably the most important step mentioned in this post, knowing your target reader will identify the details that should make up the foundation of your content. This includes insight into the reader’s intent, the ideal look and feel of the page, and the goals your content’s message should be trying to achieve.

To get to this point, however, you first need to answer these two questions:

  1. What does my target audience look like?
  2. Why are they reading my content?

What does my target audience look like?

The first question relies on general demographic information such as age, gender, education, and job title. This gives a face to the ideal audience member(s) and the kind of information that would best suit them. For example, if targeting stay-at-home mothers between the ages of 35 and 40 with two or more kids under the age of 5, we can guess that she has a busy daily schedule, travels frequently for errands, and constantly needs to stay vigilant over her younger children. So, a piece that is personable, quick, easy to read on-the-go, and includes inline imagery to reduce eye fatigue would be better received than something that is lengthy and requires a high level of focus.

Why are they reading my content?

Once you have a face to your reader, the second question must be answered to understand what that reader wants from your content and if your current product is effectively meeting those needs. For example, senior-level executives of mid- to large-sized companies may be reading to become better informed before making an important decision, to become more knowledgeable in their field, or to use the information they learn to teach others. Other questions you may want to consider asking:

  • Are they reading for leisure or work?
  • Would they want to share this with their friends on social media?
  • Where will they most likely be reading this? On the train? At home? Waiting in line at the store?
  • Are they comfortable with long blocks of text, or would inline images be best?
  • Do they prefer bite-sized information or are they comfortable with lengthy reports?

You can find the answers to these questions and collect valuable demographic and psychographic information by using a combination of internal resources, like sales scripts and surveys, and third-party audience insight tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook Audience Insights. With these results you should now have a comprehensive picture of your audience and can start identifying the parts of your content that can be improved.


Step 2: Tear apart your existing content

Now that you understand who your audience is, it’s time to get to the real work: assessing your existing content. This stage requires breaking everything apart to identify the components you should keep, change, or discard. However, this task can be extremely challenging because the performance of most components — such as tone of voice, design, and continuity — can’t simply be bucketed into binary categories like “good” or “bad.” Rather, they fall into a spectrum where the most reasonable level of improvement falls somewhere in the middle. You’ll see what I mean by this statement later on, but one of the most effective ways to evaluate and measure the degree of optimization needed for these components is to use a scorecard. Created by my colleague, Ben Estes, this straightforward, reusable, and easy to apply tool can help you objectively review the performance of your content.

Make a copy of the Content Review Grading Rubric

Note: The card sampled here, and the one I personally use for similar projects, is a slightly altered version of the original.

As you can see, the card is divided into two categories: Writing and Design. Listed under each category are elements that are universally needed to create a good content and should be examined. Each point is assigned a grading scale ranging from 1–5, with 1 being the worst score and 5 being best.

To use, start by choosing a part of your page to look at first. Order doesn’t matter, so whether you choose to first check “spelling and grammar” or “continuity” is up to you. Next, assign it a score on a separate Excel sheet (or mark it directly on the rubric) based on its current performance. For example, if the copy has no spelling errors but some minor grammar issues, you would rank “spelling and grammar” as a four (4).

Finally, repeat this process until all elements are graded. Remember to stay impartial to give an honest assessment.

Once you’re done, look at each grade and see where it falls on the scale. Ideally each element should have a score of 4 or greater, although a grade of 5 should only be given out sparingly. Tying back to my spectrum comment from earlier, a 5 is exclusively reserved for top-level work and should be something to strive for but will typically take more effort to achieve than it is worth. A grade of 4 is often the highest and most reasonable goal to attempt for, in most instances.

A grade of 3 or below indicates an opportunity for improvement and that significant changes need to be made.

If working with multiple pieces of content at once, the grading system can also be used to help prioritize your workload. Just collect the average writing or design score and sort them in ascending/descending order. Pages with a lower average indicate poorer performance and should be prioritized over pages whose averages are higher.

Whether you choose to use this scorecard or make your own, what you review, the span of the grading scale, and the criteria for each grade should be adjusted to fit your specific needs and result in a tool that will help you honestly assess your content across multiple applications.

Don’t forget the keywords

With most areas of your content covered by the scorecard, the last element to check before moving to the editing stage is your keywords.

Before I get slack for this, I’m aware that the general rule of creating content is to do your keyword research first. But I’ve found that when it comes to reviews, evaluating keywords last feels more natural and makes the process a lot smoother. When first running through a page, you’re much more likely to notice spelling and design flaws before you pick up whether a keyword is used correctly — why not make note of those details first?

Depending on the outcomes stemming from the re-evaluation of your target audience and content performance review, you will notice one of two things about your currently targeted keywords:

  1. They have not been impacted by the outcomes of the prior analyses and do not need to be altered
  2. They no longer align with the goals of the page or needs of the audience and should be changed

In the first example, the keywords you originally target are still best suited for your content’s message and no additional research is needed. So, your only remaining task is to determine whether or not your keywords are effectively used throughout the page. This means assessing things like title tag, image alt attributes, URL, and copy.

In an attempt to stay on track, I won’t go into further detail on how to optimize keywords but if you want a little more insight, this post by Ken Lyons is a great resource.

If, however, your target keywords are no longer relevant to the goals of your content, before moving to the editing stage you’ll need to re-do your keyword research to identify the terms you should rank for. For insight into keyword research this chapter in Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is another invaluable resource.


Step 3: Evaluate your evaluation

At this point your initial review is complete and you should be ready to edit.

That’s right. Your initial review.

The interesting thing about assessing content is that it never really ends. As you make edits you’ll tend to deviate more and more from your initial strategy. And while not always a bad thing, you must continuously monitor these changes to ensure that you are on the right track to create a highly valued piece of content.

The best approach would be to reassess all your material when:

  • 50% of the edits are complete
  • 85% of the edits are complete
  • You have finished editing

At the 50% and 85% marks, keep the assessment quick and simple. Look through your revisions and ask the following questions:

  • Am I still addressing the needs of my target audience?
  • Are my target keywords properly integrated?
  • Am I using the right language and tone of voice?
  • Does it look like the information is structured correctly (hierarchically)?

If your answer is “Yes” to all four questions, then you’ve effectively made your changes and should proceed. For any question you answer “No,” go back and make the necessary corrections. The areas targeted here become more difficult to fix the closer you are to completion and ensuring they’re correct throughout this stage will save a lot of time and stress in the long run.

When you’ve finished and think you’re ready to publish, run one last comprehensive review to check the performance status of all related components. This means confirming you’ve properly addressed the needs of your audience, optimized your keywords, and improved the elements highlighted in the scorecard.


Moving forward

No two pieces of content are the same, but that does not mean there aren’t some important commonalities either. Being able to identify these similarities and understand the role they play across all formats and topics will lead the way to creating your own review process for evaluating subjective material.

So, when you find yourself gearing up for your next project, give these steps a try and always keep the following in mind:

  1. Your audience is what makes or breaks you, so keep them happy
  2. Consistent quality is key! Ensure all components of your content are performing at their best
  3. Keep your keywords optimized and be prepared to do additional research if necessary
  4. Unplanned changes will happen. Just remember to remain observant as to keep yourself on track

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How to Generate Leads From Webinars

Everyone and their Aunt Betty is doing webinars. But it doesn’t mean they’re getting people to sign up and or buy their stuff.

You have probably registered for at least a few webinars in the past, right?

Even if you registered, it didn’t mean you’d attend.

And, if you attended or watched a replay, chances are you didn’t purchase the products or services promoted.

Here’s the cold hard truth: most webinar conversion rates aren’t high.

You may only get 5% to 15% conversion on your webinar registration page.

From there, you may have a 35% to 45% registrant to attendee conversion rate.

Next, you’d cross your fingers that you have the right audience attending the webinar so they’ll actually make a purchase.

Most people expect a single-digit conversion rate.

There are many hoops to jump through before you can generate substantial income from a webinar.

You’ll need a lot of people entering the top of your funnel. You’ll need to promote your webinar and make sure you’re getting the right people to register.

Then, optimize your funnel for conversion by getting those who have registered to attend the webinar or watch the replay in hopes they make a purchase.

Sound complicated?

Let’s make it simple.

Here’s the key to getting the most out of your webinar: you need to generate as many high-quality leads as possible.

So what’s the secret sauce to generating leads and turning them into sales?

Here’s what you need to know:

Attract high-quality leads to register

To generate leads and increase ROI, you need to focus on boosting the conversion rate. Here is how you can do that:

Identify your audience

Let’s do a bit of reverse engineering here…

If the goal of your webinar is to sell a product or a service, then you need to first determine who’s going to buy the offer.

That means you have to know exactly who you want to be attending your webinar.

To clearly define your audience, create a buyer persona map like this:

A buyer persona map will help you hone in on their demographics and psychographics.

Your buyer persona should cover the pain points, frustrations, and desired outcomes of your target market in relation to the product or service you’re promoting in the webinar.

There are a few ways to gather this information:

  • Survey: Asking your existing customers, email subscribers, or social media followers with a pre-webinar survey is the best way to find out what your target market wants and needs. Phone calls are great ways to get in-depth information while online survey allows you to gather input from more people and a broader perspective of what your audience wants.
  • Online research: Identify individual prospects and learn about their habits, behaviors, and preferences on social media profiles, publications, and other websites. Pay attention to how they describe their challenges and read between the lines to find out what makes them tick.
  • Customer data: Find customers who have purchased the same or similar products as you’re promoting in the webinar.
    This way you can begin to understand what messaging or positioning they’re most responsive to.
  • Webinar registration: You can continue to refine your buyer persona during the webinar registration period.

Start by collecting additional information on your registration page.

Set up landing page with targeted messaging

With the information you have gathered in the buyer persona, you can now create a webinar registration landing page.

Use content that targets your ideal customers’ challenges, pain points, needs, and wants.

The one and only goal of this registration landing page is to get potential attendees to sign up for the event.

Make it simple for them by entering their information, such as name and email address.

The copy and images on the page need to communicate to the visitors why they should register for your webinar within seconds of seeing it.

Here are some essential components of a high-converting webinar registration page:

  • A compelling title and meta description will boost your SEO ranking. And, get the right audience to click through to your landing page.
  • A short video to explain the event and generate excitement.
  • Easy-to-read copy that highlights the benefits of the webinar and a value-driven call-to-action.
  • Social proof (e.g., social media comments, testimonials) to reinforce your value proposition.
  • Urgency and scarcity, such as a countdown timer or a note on limited spaces, to encourage visitors to take action.
  • Brief bio of the speakers (you or other guests) to build credibility.

If you’re using webinars for lead generation, chances are you’re offering it for free.

Don’t forget to highlight that it’s a no-cost event so you can get more people to sign up. I know that this sounds obvious, but lots of companies actually have to remind prospects that it’s free. If you don’t make it clear, you’ll definitely get questions asking about the cost. Or worse, they won’t ask and instead assume there’s a free and won’t sign up.

Offer on-demand or replay

In 2017, one-third of all webinar attendees only watch an on-demand event.

People want to consume content when and where they want it.

In particular, mobile access has shifted media consumption pattern to on-demand formats that put the viewer in control of their viewing schedules.

Offering a replay or allowing prospects to access your webinar on-demand can entice more people to sign up for your event.

On-demand access also gives you the opportunity to continue promoting the event after the live date and keep generating leads.

Co-host with a partner

Co-hosting a webinar with a joint-venture partner can give you the opportunity to access a new audience and generate more leads.

Your webinar partner should share a similar audience with your business and offer complementary products or services instead of being direct competition.

To maximize the lead generation potential of the webinar, you need to co-market the event to your respective lists.

And do some research on potential partners to make sure they offer high-quality content that’s a good fit for your followers.

Promote your webinar to the right audience

If you build it… they won’t come. (Sorry!)

To get the right audience to attend the event, you need to promote your webinar through multiple channels actively:

Leverage your current audience

Sharing your webinar with your existing followers is a great starting point to get the word out.

They already know about you, so it’s often much easier for them to say “yes” to registering for your event.

This also gives you a great opportunity to nurture relationships with them and build the trust you need for conversion.

Here are a few ways to promote a webinar to your existing audience:

  • Send an email blast to your list. Focus the content of the email on the webinar only and make all the CTAs point to the webinar registration page.
  • Include a brief paragraph, an inline link, or a CTA in your blog posts or email newsletters that takes your readers to the registration landing page.
  • Post social media updates and create a Facebook event to let your followers know about the webinar.
  • Use images and the appropriate hashtags on the posts to capture attention and reach more people.
  • https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

  • Set up an affiliate program to encourage your followers to help spread the word.
  • Ask your loyal clients or customers to share the event with their friends and colleagues.
  • Have your sales team personally reach out to their contacts and share the webinar information.
  • Use lead capture mechanisms, such as pop-up, slide-in, hello bar, or exit-intent pop-up to promote the event to your website visitors.

Use paid advertising to reach new audiences

Paid advertising is an effective way to reach new audiences quickly and in a targeted manner.

Most online advertising platforms allow you to segment the audience granularly.

This allows you to get a targeted message in front of the right people to maximize click-through and conversion rate.

Google AdWords

Google AdWords is ideal for targeting people who are already looking for solutions to their problems.

You can optimize your landing page with search terms used by your ideal audience as related to the challenges your webinar solves and the solutions you deliver.

Make sure to write a compelling headline and description that matches the search terms you’re ranking for.

Additionally, you can use ad customizers, such as the Countdown feature, to dynamically enhance the ad copy.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is great for B2B marketing.

You can effectively segment the target audience based on company size, title/role, skills, groups, or geographic location, etc.

In fact, 46% of B2B social media traffic comes from LinkedIn, making it a platform you can’t afford to ignore if you’re targeting a B2B audience.

Besides sharing the event through content, group, and updates, you can also use paid advertising on LinkedIn to reach a larger audience:

  • Sponsored updates: Increase visibility beyond your immediate followers by boosting updates that perform well organically. Use LinkedIn’s targeting options to make sure the post is shown to the right audience.
  • LinkedIn ads: These ads appear on the sidebar and are priced on a CPC (cost-per-click) or CPM (cost-per-impression) basis.
    Test them out with a small budget to see if it’s effective for your target audience.
  • LinkedIn lead forms: This new feature can help you maximize the effectiveness of your LinkedIn ads. Simply include the webinar CTA on your ad and link it to the lead form. When users click on the CTA, they’ll be directed to a form already populated with their information pulled from their LinkedIn profiles. All they need to do is to hit the submit button.
    This seamless and user-friendly experience is particularly effective for mobile users because they don’t have to type in their information on the phone. And you can be sure that you’re gathering accurate information on these leads.

Facebook

Facebook has over two billion monthly users on the platform, making it an effective channel for promoting a webinar to almost any kind of audience.

However, the approach needs to be more nuanced.

People use Facebook to unwind, relax, and socialize.

They don’t go there seeking a solution, thinking about how to do their job better, or looking for a webinar to attend.

Consider Facebook Ads as a series of interactions with your target audience that tells a story and builds relationships that’ll ultimately lead to registering for your event:

  • Content promotion: Clicking on a link and reading your content is a low-commitment action. It helps widen the top of your ad funnel, build brand awareness, and lower the cost-per-lead of your eventual webinar ads. And as you drive visitors who show interest in your content to your website, you can create custom audiences or retarget them with ads about your webinar.
  • Audience engagement: To path the way to getting better responses to your webinar ads, you can share posts that encourage audience engagement. Use the opportunity to generate awareness, build trust, identify the best leads, and understand how your ideal audience talks about their needs and challenges.
  • Webinar lead generation: When you promote your webinar using Facebook Ads, make sure to pay attention to audience message match. Talk about the audience’s pain points and explain your solution. Be personable and relatable because people use Facebook to connect with others. Don’t forget to emphasize that it’s a free event to entice more prospects to sign up.
  • Cohesive user journey: Experiment with different ad copy and images to target different audience segments. You can create dedicated webinar registration landing pages to match the messaging of each ad. This allows you to deliver a coherent user experience that’ll help increase conversion rate.
  • Lookalike audience: When you start to generate leads from your ads, you can use the information of the registrants to create a lookalike audience that will help further target the right audience.

No matter how you promote your webinar, don’t forget to track the effectiveness of each source.

That way, you can invest more resources on what works best.

To track the effectiveness of your webinar, create a unique link for each of ad using Google URL Builder.

By adding a UTM code to each source, you will see how each ad performs in Google Analytics.

Construct a webinar sales funnel

You don’t generate revenue just by getting a lot of people to sign up or attend your webinar. You make money by getting them to buy from you.

If you have registered for any webinar before, you know you didn’t attend every single event you signed up for. Nor will your audience, if you don’t stay on their radar.

After you have put in the work to generate leads, you need to make sure that they’re excited to attend your event.

To make your attendees excited, take them through a series of content after they have registered for the event:

Registration thank-you page/email

This is one of the most overlooked steps in the registration process.

Many marketers simply direct participants to a web page or send out an email with a generic message without a clear next step or CTA.

However, there are a few things you can do to maximize the “real estate” of your thank-you page and/or email:

  • Reiterate the benefits of the webinar and what the audience can expect to learn from it to build anticipation and excitement about the event.
  • Include all the “logistics” information — date, time, and directions to join the event, etc.
  • Ask the registrants to tell their friends about the event. You can include social share buttons with pre-written copy to make it easy for them to spread the word.
  • Include an “add to calendar” link to encourage recipients to put the event on their calendars.
  • Entice the audience to check out your website or online store by promoting a special offer.
  • Include a link to a survey with a few questions to help you get a deeper understanding of your audience’s pain points and desired outcomes.
  • This information can help you refine your marketing message and craft a more impactful presentation.
  • Share links to high-value content on your website to build trust and credibility.

Strategy session sign up page

If you offer coaching, consulting or professional services, add a strategy session sign up to this workflow — before, after, or as part of the registration thank you page.

On the strategy session registration page, state clearly who this offer is for and the value it offers.

You may want to ask the prospects a few questions.

You can gain more insights into how they talk about their problems and challenges to better position your offering.

After prospects sign up for the strategy session, take them to a thank you page where you’ll give them a “homework” assignment.

Ask them to complete prior to the webinar.

Your homework will help you further frame the conversation. And, position you as the authority.

This will get the prospects to become more invested in your process, and weed out those who aren’t serious about having the conversation.

Pre-webinar indoctrination series

When you’re hosting a live webinar, there could be up to a week or two between the time someone signs up and attending the event.

A series of email — an indoctrination series — will help sustain the anticipation. And, build rapport with your audience.

Here is how Mention does it:

This series allows you to position your products or services within the right context.

An indoctrination email series should cover the following:

  • Your personal journey. Tell your story to build the know, like, and trust factor while making you more relatable and credible.
  • Common solutions that your prospects have tried, why they don’t work, and how your approach is different.
  • Think about it as a targeted way of articulating your unique selling proposition.
  • Response to potential objections to the solution you offer. You can preempt these objections before they arise when the audience hear about the offer on your webinar.
  • Case studies, success stories, or testimonials about your business or the specific product or service you’re promoting.
  • Relevant and valuable content on your website, such as blog posts or videos, that relates to the topic of the webinar to position you as the expert and authority.

Event reminders

Your audience is busy, and most people won’t make a point of remembering the date and time of your webinar.

That’s why you need to keep reminding them… multiple times!

After all, your leads won’t do any good if they don’t watch your webinar and make a purchase.

Schedule a series of reminder emails or text messages.

Play around with the timeframe.

Try testing a day before, a few hours before, an hour before, and at the start of the event — to get more people to attend your webinar.

Reiterate the benefits of attending the webinar and make sure to include the link to attend in these emails.

Replay and follow-up emails

Remember one-third of people prefer to watch webinar on-demand?

Sending out a replay link will help you capture this audience who prefers to consume the content when and where they want to.

You should also craft a series of follow-up emails to remind participants about the offer.

Even for those who attend the event live, they may not be ready to purchase right away, or they didn’t stay until the end to hear about your offer.

Don’t take your audience’s interest for granted.

Conclusion

There are many moving parts when it comes to generating leads for your webinars, as well as maximizing the chances of them attending the webinar and making a purchase.

These best practices are great starting points but by no means the be-all-end-all.

You need to dial in all the components along the customer journey.

Test your approaches. And, track your metrics to see what works for your business model, product category, and audience.

When you’re able to maximize the number of prospects and the quality of leads, you’re pulling into your funnel while putting in the effort to nurture the relationships.

You’ll then be able to optimize your webinar conversion rate and make more sales.

What’s your go-to strategy for promoting your webinars?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

Making Informed Business Decisions: How to Simplify the Process

Marketing-Data-and-Analytics-Best-Practices-3Are you one of those businesses that’s constantly putting out one fire after another? Do you find that you’re always in catch-up mode and reactive instead of proactive? More importantly, does it sometimes feel as if your decisions can only be made one day at a time? If so, then this is a must read. Making informed business decisions comes from having an inbound marketing strategy that continually provides you with invaluable customer data. 

Making better business decisions nowadays need not be complicated. It’s not based on guesswork, assumptions or your gut feel. Instead, it’s based on a business intelligence gathering strategy that operates in real-time. It comes from enriching both your internal data and the data emerging from your inbound marketing strategy. Here’s how you get started.  

#1) Eliminate Data Silos

Eliminate data silos where internal departments are guided by personal objectives and interpretations instead of cold hard facts. Ditch the Excel spreadsheets. Funnel all customer and marketing decisions through one integrated process. Review that process and data weekly, monthly or quarterly. Make sure everyone is on the same page and interpreting the same data so that the decisions your company makes are based upon factual assertions – not assumptions.  

#2) Adopt Data Enrichment 

You can’t rely on one data source. You need multiple data sources. That means you must have a data enrichment strategy that allows you to marry your internal customer data with the data emerging from your inbound marketing strategy. Data enrichment allows you to improve both the quality of your data and your data gathering approaches. Identifying which data matters means you’re able to focus on the digital strategies that provide the best returns. 

#3) Track Customer Interactions and Identify Lead Generation

Establish key performance indicators (KPI) for all business development and customer-facing personnel. Use that business intelligence to define your best lead generation strategies, the ones that lead to sales. It’s not enough just to secure leads. You want to know which strategies generate the best leads and which leads become actual customers. The more you scrutinize the results of your inbound marketing strategy, the stronger your future results. 

Website competitive analysis

#4) Personalize Your Marketing Message

Your customer data allows you to personalize your marketing message. It helps you round out your buyer personas and make sense of how customers make decisions. Don’t ignore what that data is telling you. Drill down. Understand what your customers are saying in real-time. This means interpreting the results of email marketing campaigns, digital advertisements, reviewing your website’s analytics and understanding how different content affects different customers. 

#5) Expand Your Data Sources

Complement your internal and external data with research. A simple website competitive analysis will allow you to better understand how your competitors reach customers. Are they adopting strategies you’ve ignored or are unaware of? How is their website laid out? Can you learn anything from how they’ve structured their landing pages? A website competitive analysis isn’t about emulating your competitors. It’s ultimately about understanding what’s working and why. 

Your company has too much intelligence at its fingertips. You don’t need to go it alone. You can improve the quality of your data and use those improvements to further increase the effectiveness of your digital marketing strategies. 

If you want to understand how your customer data can help you make more informed business decisions, contact us. We’ll be happy to work with you to find the best solutions for your needs.

 

10 Projects to Improve Your Design Skills

Design is — and always will be — a big part of marketing.

But that doesn’t mean every single marketer needs to be an expert designer. After all, the skills needed to be an effective marketer cover a wide breadth of expertise areas. Taking a note from Rand Fishkin’s T-Shaped Marketer concept, marketers need to have a baseline knowledge of many different topics and a depth of knowledge in one topic.

Source: The T-Shaped Web Marketer, Moz

So where do design skills come into play?

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that every piece of content you create needs to have some awareness of design. From something as big as your website, to something as small as your social images: it all depends on good design.

And while many marketers might be lucky enough to have a design team at their disposal, it still helps to have an understanding of what make a good design to effectively work with that design team.

Even if you do have a design team, chances are, you may need to create designs yourself every now and then when resources get low.

Whatever the case might be, improving your design skills starts with practice.

To help you get started, I’ve put together 10 design projects I think every marketer should try to start practicing their design skills. 

And, if you want to learn all about the tools, tips, and tricks non-designers need to know, join us for a live workshop — Design for Non-Designers: How to Create Beautiful, Engaging Content for Social and Beyond — with Adobe Designers and HubSpot content strategists. Register Now!

In the meantime, start practicing your skills with some of the following design projects.

10 Projects to Improve Your Design Skills

1. Design Your Personal Website

One of the best ways to practice your design skills for a practical use is to develop a personal website. Personal websites can be as a creative or straightforward as you want them to be. The process of making one will help you think about how you want to represent yourself. And, best of all, you’ll end up with a professional website to link to for networking and more.

Below is an example of a creative, beautifully designed personal website. Don’t be afraid to get creative and change you website design overtime as your skills improve.

 Source: Claire Culley

2. Write and Design an Infographic

If you’re a content marketer, one way to stretch your design skills while still creating content for your job is to create an infographic. People process visual content 60,000X faster than written content alone, so an infographic is a great way to combine both visuals and written information.

Start with a concept and make it visual. There are tons of amazing infographics out there for you to draw inspiration from.

 Source: Wine Folly

3. Local business Website Homepage

If you’re an aspiring web designer or want to take a leap and test the limits of your skills, try designing a website for a local business. Local businesses don’t often tons of pages on their site. Instead, many just need a central homepage with basic information like hours, contact information, etc.

Below is a local business homepage from a cafe in Cambridge, MA called Cafe Luna. The overall design is relatively simple, but it does it’s job in portraying the aesthetic of the restaurant while also displaying necessary information that’s most relevant to website visitors.

Source: Cafe Luna

4. A Set of 10 Social Images for Twitter and Facebook

Most content marketers interact with social media frequently, whether your a community manager or are asking your community manager for social promotion. One way to increase your design skills is to volunteer to design a set of social images for a campaign you want to promote.

I’d suggest commiting to creating 10 unique images for any one campaign. With a tool like Canva, it’s very easy to create images with the correct social media dimensions in a bulk set. See below for an example.

When you create a set of 10 images for one campaign, you’ll also find yourself iterating on previous designs and getting with each image you design.

5. Set of Icons

If you want to get better at uniform design, try creating your own set of icons. Come up with a list of 10-20 ideas you want to represent in icon form. It could be as simple as 20 different foods you want to create as icons. 

Don’t cheat by using a platform like FlatIcon (although, if you ever need icons to use in your content creation, I highly recommend the site for finding illustrations). Use a tool like Adobe Illustrator to work with lines and shapes to create a set of uniform icons that fit a theme. Icons are great because they can be used over time and help you practice creating a cohesive theme.

 Source: FlatIcon

6. Ebook Cover and Layout

Working on an upcoming ebook or long-form content campaign? Focus on improving your design skills by going above and beyond on the ebook cover and layout. Learning to layout long form content in a visually appealing way goes a long way for practicing your design skills.

As a best practice, trying using Adobe InDesign for ebook It’s a powerful tool that’s made specifically for creating long form content like books. 

Source: HubSpot

7. A Week of Instagram Posts

Designing images for Instagram is different that designing images for Twitter and Facebook. As a highly visual mobile-first platform, designing Instagram posts will help you think about design from a mobile-first angle.

Try using Adobe Spark Post for creating Instagram images. It has a wide variety of tools and pre-built designs for you to play around with and create something new.

If you focus on creating a week or more worth of Instagram posts, you’ll be practicing your design skills and creating a backlog of images your social team can use when they have open editorial slots.

Source: @HubSpot

8. A Branding Starter Kit

A big component of learning design skills is learning the ins and outs of color theory and typography. Want a practical project to hone in on those skills? Design a branding starter kit. Whether for your brand or just for practice, a good brand kit will include a typography hierarchy, a cohesive color schemes, and visual guidelines for future designers and collaborate.

Use big-name brand style guides, like this one from Medium, as your inspiration when building your first style guide.

Source: Medium

9. A Set of Standard Email Templates

Wish you had better emails templates to work with? Why not take a stab at designing them yourself? You might need to secure web development resources to have them coded, but designing them yourself will help fill a need for your team all while helping you practice your design skills.

Make sure to focus on a cohesive design while creating a few templates for different needs, like:

  1. Blog subscriber email template
  2. Email newsletter template
  3. Offer promotional template
  4. Welcome email template

 Source: 99Designs

10. Landing Page Images for Your Content Campaigns

Last but not least, a great way to improve your design skills is to put energy into designing images for your landing pages. Not only will you improve your design skills, but creating new images gives you a great opportunity to test your conversion rates and improve CRO over time.

Don’t just stick with a basic ebook cover in an iPad. Try out header photos with corresponding agenda images, like the one from our Four Days of Facebook campaign below:

Don’t forget to A/B test those images to see how they affect conversion rates!

Source: Four Days of Facebook, HubSpot

Practice Makes Perfect

When it comes to becoming a better designer, practice is key. It doesn’t happen overnight. Start with small projects you think you can handle and work your way up — don’t try to tackle all 10 projects in one day!

Practice makes perfect, but it also helps to have tools and tips from seasoned designers. That’s why HubSpot and Adobe teamed up to bring you a live workshop — Design for Non-Designers: How to Create Engaging, Beautiful Content for Social and Beyond. Join us live or watch it on demand. Register Now!

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